The Best Real Estate Career Moves To Make During a Recession

Regardless of how well-prepared you might feel for a downturn, recessions can be scary for commercial real estate professionals.

But even though it might not feel like it, if you make the right career moves during a recession, a down cycle in the market could actually represent one of the biggest opportunities for growth that you might see throughout your entire real estate career.

So to make sure you’re taking full advantage of these opportunities and setting yourself up for success when market conditions inevitably start to improve, this article covers three of the best real estate career moves you can make during an economic recession, and what you can do right now to position yourself for the best possible outcomes on the upswing of the cycle.

If video is more your thing, you can watch the video version of this article here:

Consider Going Back To School

The first career move that’s worth considering is one of the most popular options during economic recessions, and this is going back to graduate school for a Master’s in Real Estate or general MBA.

If you’ve ever thought about getting an advanced degree but haven’t been able to stomach the lost income or missed potential career opportunities during your time in school, recessions can be one of the best times to take the plunge and go this route. When economic activity is slow, job openings tend to be at all-time lows, and the deal activity you’d be involved with on the job (when transaction activity is also at its slowest) is often relatively limited during these times.

Even if you already have a job in the industry, if you’re not seeing as much deal volume as you’d like or you’re working in a specific industry discipline that you don’t want to be in long term, going back to school can be a great option to consider.

For many real estate professionals, graduate school is a way to improve personal branding, take time to feel out different parts of the industry, and do all of this without feeling like you’re getting left behind by jumping out of the industry.

Going back to school during a recession also has the added benefit of allowing you to get your foot in the door for internships at companies that may not be hiring at all for full-time positions, since the cost to hire an intern is usually significantly lower than what a company would have to pay to bring on full-time talent. As an added bonus, these employment structures also tend to be much more flexible and open-ended, which employers often prefer during times of market uncertainty.

Working in an internship (especially at a brand-name company) is one of the best ways to position yourself for full-time opportunities upon graduation, and with the average recession in the US lasting just about 17 months in total, heading to grad school in the beginning or middle of an economic downturn usually means you’ll be graduating into a much more favorable hiring environment.

Double Down on Relationships

Grad school is also a great way to grow your network quickly, and this leads into the next point on this list, which is to use a recession as an opportunity to double down on your relationships with mentors and peers within the real estate industry.

This advice is applicable if you’re in college, if you’re working in a different industry and trying to change careers, or even if you’re already working in real estate, since you never know when you might need to rely on someone to get back on your feet from unexpected career setbacks as a result of market conditions.

Economic slowdowns almost always translate into subdued transaction activity in commercial real estate, which tends to lead to a lot more downtime for many real estate professionals. And because of this increase in downtime, people tend to be much more likely to say yes to a phone call or a meeting with someone looking to break into the industry during these times.

Doubling down on relationships is also a great way to make sure that, even if you do find yourself getting laid off or without a job for an extended period of time, you’ll have a team of people that you can lean on that know, like, and trust you, and can ultimately help you find your next opportunity.

And if you find it difficult to create these connections by reaching out to people via cold email or LinkedIn messages, a great way to build your network without having to do much (or any) cold outreach is to get involved with nationally-recognized industry organizations like ULI or NAIOP.

Organizations like these often hold regular in-person networking events that are great opportunities to meet a lot of people in a very short period of time, without committing to an entire one-on-one coffee or lunch meeting. These types of organizations also often put together “Young Leaders” groups for members under the ages of 30 or 35, which can also help you build strong connections with your peers and even get exposure to educational opportunities through guest speakers or a dedicated curriculum.

Tighten Up Your Technical Skills

During a recession, one of the most valuable things you can do to improve your chances of landing a job (or preserving the job you already have) is to focus on tightening up your technical skills.

If you can analyze and value commercial real estate deals and create dynamic acquisition and development models from scratch in Excel, this will make you an extremely valuable employee within a CRE firm.

And even if you only have experience in one specific industry discipline, financial modeling skills tend to be very transferable to a variety of different jobs within the industry, and having these on your resume can open up a variety of different career options when hiring conditions are tight.

Having strong technical skills will also help put you ahead of other candidates that are vying for the same jobs as you are, especially when you’re in the running for entry-level analyst roles.

Taking the time to get an ARGUS certification (if you plan to work in the retail, office, or industrial sectors), enrolling in Excel-based real estate financial modeling courses that can teach you how to build pro forma models from scratch, or even getting your real estate license proactively (if you plan to go into brokerage) can all go a long way towards setting yourself up for success during the job search.

Even if you already have a full-time job in the industry, when transaction activity slows, this usually results in more available time to dedicate to professional development activities. And by using this time to improve your technical skills and add these to your resume, if you do end up losing your job unexpectedly, this will make you a much more attractive candidate when looking for your next career opportunity.

How To Prepare For a Real Estate Analyst Job

Even though recessions can be scary, if you can use this time to focus on building relationships, improving your technical skills, and potentially even going back to school, recessions can be huge opportunities to advance your career or even pivot into a different part of the industry altogether.

And if you want to make sure you have the technical skills you’ll need to land jobs in a competitive hiring environment, or you want to learn a more structured, methodical approach to building your network in this industry, make sure to check out our all-in-one membership training platform, Break Into CRE Academy.

A membership to the Academy will give you instant access to over 120 hours of video training on real estate financial modeling and analysis, you’ll get access to hundreds of practice Excel interview exam questions, sample acquisition case studies, and you’ll also get access to the Break Into CRE Analyst Certification Exam. This exam covers topics like real estate pro forma and development modeling, commercial real estate lease modeling, equity waterfall modeling, and many other real estate financial analysis concepts that will help you prove to employers that you have what it takes to tackle the responsibilities of an analyst or associate at a top real estate firm.

As always, thanks so much for reading, and make sure to check out the Break Into CRE YouTube channel for more content that can help you take the next step in your real estate career.

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